Just last week the Governor of New York signed the Reproductive Health Act into law. That bill modernized the state’s archaic abortion laws, bringing them into sync with what most Americans believe – that abortion is a private medical decision involving complex personal, economic and health factors. Ultimately, it is a choice that should be left solely up to the person who is pregnant.
Like all medical procedures, abortion should not be subject to criminal penalties and no person should ever find herself worried about the legality of caring for their health. No woman should end up behind bars for making a decision that saves her life.
Of course, abortion opponents instantly began wringing their hands over the idea of ‘abortion until the moment of birth’. This is simply ignorance, for the law does no more than codify the legal guidelines of Roe v. Wade – that abortion is legal until the point in which a fetus reaches viability, and legal afterward only in cases where the physical or mental health of the mother is put in jeopardy. These conservatives bemoan the fact that abortion has been removed from the state’s criminal code, undermining one of their favorite talking points that they don’t believe any woman should be punished or jailed for seeking an abortion.
It’s not surprising that the right is misleading their followers on how these laws protect a woman’s choice. Think about that! They will do anything to win – and they stand unabashed in light of such manipulation of the masses. And it doesn’t stop there. They’ve attacked state politicians and the governor of New York himself for supporting this effort to keep women free to have a personal choice even if Roe is overturned.
As an abortion provider for more than 24 years, I can tell you that there are no patients seeking abortions at 37 weeks in order to fit into a prom dress, as they so gleefully insist is true. Late-term abortions are not performed because a patient suddenly decided a month or two from birth that they have changed their minds and suddenly want the baby to disappear. These are patients who have learned far too late that they are carrying children with terminal complications. They are about to make the hardest decision EVER, to have the grace and privilege of reducing their baby’s suffering. They are the patients whose own physical health is in jeopardy and for whom a conventional delivery or c-section could potentially kill them.
And yes, it is also those patients who struggle for months and months so traumatized by the pregnancy that they ignored the symptoms in the hopes that it would simply go away. Those who may have been abused – physically, sexually or emotionally – and never had the ability to end their pregnancy earlier. Or those who innately grasp their inability to remain pregnant; addicts who are incapable of the enormity of proper parenting.
While a vast number of later abortions are of wanted pregnancies, or involve medical complications of some sort, we cannot ignore those forced to wait far too long because of an abusive partners or a medical system that fails to meet the needs of the most marginalized. Lastly, we must understand the unjustness of poverty and an unsupportive conservative public agenda which forces abortion out of their hands.
I care for women every week who are late in their second trimester and facing this difficult decision. They travel from restrictive states to see me, and should they decide that they do in fact need a late abortion they are forced to travel on to yet another state because I can’t offer them the very care that New York can now provide. It is care that in reality every state should allow and every physician should support. It is comfort that I myself wish I would be allowed to provide in my conservative state.
Removing abortion care from the criminal code is what’s needed nationally in every state. No other medical procedure is criminalized. Abortion is healthcare at every stage in a pregnancy. Let that sink in. It is essential that we always put the medical and emotional needs of the pregnant patient first. Who are WE to judge the struggles of these patients? These women NEED our voice!